By Jan Baumel, M.S.
Summer vacation is fast upon us. Are you still trying to choose between an academic program for your child or something that focuses more on developing her other talents? It can be a tough choice sometimes, but the two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
The best bet may be to put together a summer full of both — a nice balance of fun, academics, and things that feel fun but are also helping her.
Summer allows your child a chance to learn in a less structured setting where her needs can be addressed in unique and creative ways. Computer keyboarding, for example, is an important skill for all young kids to develop. Learning keyboarding skills can give her an alternative to the difficult process of writing.
Summer can also be a good time for your child to try out assistive technology. Many are specifically designed to help kids with learning disabilities (LD) work around their challenges.
You can’t beat summertime for fun and games. And getting lots of physical activity is good for children’s health and energy. If your child likes team sports, check out your local recreation department to see what they have on tap this summer. Another benefit to team sports is that they also strengthen social interaction skills.
If your child doesn't like to compete, she may be more comfortable with individual sports, such as swimming, hiking, skating, miniature golfing, and bicycling. If she has problems with attention or self-control, karate can be a good choice.
If your child has an artistic streak or theatrical flair, check out your local recreation center or community theater to see what kind of summer programs they’re offering. By participating in art, drama, or music classes, your child may discover and use special talents and build self-esteem. Look to your local recreation center and community theaters for class offerings.
You can also use her artistic interests to guide you in planning summer outings to enhance learning. Consider day trips to museums, libraries, art galleries, aquariums, planetariums, concerts, and plays.
One of the biggest decisions parents of a child with LD face over the summer is whether to continue basic instruction during vacation or give the kids a break. One possibility is to give her a few weeks off and then a jump-start with tutoring a few weeks before school begins in the fall. On the other hand, if she's just starting to make progress in a specific area when school lets out for the summer, it may be wise to continue instruction — it would be a shame to lose that momentum. Ask your child's teacher for suggestions for fun activities to strengthen skills she's learned.
If your child struggles with reading, there are many ways you can help build skills at home. Take advantage of summer reading programs at your local public library. Read with her daily to build vocabulary and instill a love of literature. Older kids may enjoy listening to books on tape.
Make sure you set aside time for her to read as well. Her teacher or local library staff can help you find books or magazines of interest written at her independent reading level. Since reading aloud is one of the best ways for kids to improve reading skills, encourage her to read to younger children or older relatives.
Your final decision should be based on a variety of factors, including family schedules, time, cost, and your child's feelings. Remember that summer should also be a time to enjoy your child, so find time to laugh and play together.